The appeal of KING, a three-goddess “electro-soul” trio of Berklee alums now based in Los Angeles, is easy to grasp — their distinctive updated-classic sound, professional polish, and undeniable presence is obvious from the moment they set foot on stage. Anita Bias and twin sisters Amber and Paris Strother formed the group in 2010, and since them have attracted a substantial and sometimes star-studded following (Prince is a noted fan). To see them perform their original music on the minuscule Great Scott stage, then, was a rare and singular treat for everyone in the room.
First, however, I must discuss the opening act of the evening, Jennah Bell, who may, in fact, be an actual angel. Many singer-songwriter acts tend to fall into boring or trite territory, blending into one another in a sea of sensitive lyrics and winsome acoustic guitar. Ms. Bell, however, beautiful and fresh in a white t-shirt and wide-brimmed black hat, sang her self-written songs with unique clarity and conviction. Starting her set with new single “Chapter 3: The Hatchet,” Bell commanded attention with unprecedented sweetness – her voice really is something special, delicate but unyielding. If you’ve got 4 minutes, check out the video she has out of herself singing her song “Yes, This Is A Hold Up” on a New York subway platform.
KING took the stage shortly after Bell graciously ended her set with an entirely different setup — Anita and Amber stand and sing up front, on opposite sides of the stage. Paris, meanwhile, presides in back over a large table full of synthesizers, keyboards, and a microphone equipped with a plastic voice moderator tube, which occasionally she places into her mouth and creates alien-like interjections into the smoothness of the songs. Paris not only does all of the instrumentation for the songs, but also produces the band’s recordings, including their upcoming full-length album and the handful of tracks available on their Soundcloud, which have garnered hundreds of thousands of listens. During their live set, the group elaborated freely and joyously on these tracks, adding in a funky breakdown during “Supernatural” and vocal embellishments that prompted cheers of “Sing it!!!!” and “YES!” from the crowd. The songs have a timeless appeal, clearly rooted in classic traditions of soul and R&B, but there’s a smooth freshness in each one that makes songs like “The Story” and “In the Meantime” irresistible.
What’s really amazing about KING beyond their obvious musical talent, though, is their grace. These women are powerful, confident, and gorgeous — it’s mystifying to contemplate how Anita Bias possibly performed the powerhouse set she did wearing a curve-hugging windowpane shift and stiletto heels (both of which were fabulous), but she exhibited neither strain nor stress. Smiling out at the crowd, thanking them and each other throughout the night, and grooving to their own beats (sometimes in coordinated movements, a practice that’s unbelievably cool and so scarcely seen anymore), the women of KING know exactly what they’re doing, and they’re happy doing it.
There is only more massive success awaiting King in the future, to be sure. Their already large fan base and impressive tour schedule aside, KING’s obviously consummate professionalism and highly creative approach to music can only mean great things for them. To have seen them within the minuscule confines of the Great Scott was a stroke of excellent luck, and showcased with wild intimacy the talent and accomplishments of a truly gifted group.